Intergalactic tips for optimising and improving your website
One the many questions I get asked by people / companies / clients is:
- 'How do i make my website better'
- Do i need SEO?
- How do i get my business to top of google?
- How do i get more people to my site?
- We don't like our website now (5 years after its gone live, and been updated twice by client)
Usually this is a response to finding that their website is currently filed in the 'where are they now' category of google listings and they now believe they need SEO. It happens to everyone from time to time. You know the scene, you've been concentrating hard on growing the business, making links, networking, doing 'good stuff', that you've neglected your shop window. It's got a little grubby, faded and tired. The answer to the questions are not a straight-forward one. Usually businesses are looking for an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) related answer, but this really only part of the solution / problem. Let's quickly benchmark what we mean by 'perform'. I see it as:
- How good do you get your brand message and values across?
- Does it look good visually ?
- Does it rank well in search engines? And for what?
- Do people get in touch with you after seeing your site?
- Are you social?
- Do you have a marketing strategy?
- Do you implement a marketing strategy?
- Does it work on mobiles / smartphones ...
Ok, time to get on the cosmic marigolds as we get our hands dirty tackling some of your website's dirty laundry!
1. First impressions last
Ok, you may be expecting us to launch into SEO blurb and spiel here, but 9 times out of 10, that is not the only problem going on with your website. Does your website actually look good? Has it got clear messages about what you actually do? Is it well written? Does it excite? Do you look like a real business? This is where your branding counts! All these things add up and give visitors an impression of your business.
There's no point sending people round to your showhome when it still needs decorating!
2. Pop open the hood and look inside
Second port of call is looking at how it is coded. Right click on your website page and 'view source'. You may well need someone to do this for you to interpret what you are seeing. Coding is poetry and not every website designer or developer is Shakespeare, and in fairness, if your site is over 2-3 years old, its time for an MOT as things do change. Looking at the html, it should be clearly ordered into areas. Header info which holds things like your meta descriptions (what google displays on results pages) and your body content. This should be all nicely arranged and areas can be quickly identified as problematic. Basically, if your site is built well and updated regularly, google will like this. I'm not going to go into all the extra detail about what will: increase speed, page relevancy, keyword density, decrease load, give google a massage etc ... you can read more about our SEO and website optimisation services at your leisure.
3. How is google viewing your site?
Have a look. See how it is listed for your business name. If you aren't appearing on first/second page for your business name then alarm bells should start to be ringing. (this may not be true for new sites)
4. Get honest feedback - how are other people viewing your site?
Sometimes an honest opinion from someone you trust is all you need. Here's some starter questions to ask them about your site:
- is it clear what we do?
- do we look like we do good work?
- would you use us?
- how do we look against our competitors?
5. Get a google place for business
It's pretty easy to start, it also means extra business info will appear by your business name in search results. You can find out more about Google Places here.
6. Are people linking to your website?
Still a key for search engine results. But its quality not quantity. Try typing this into google: link:www.yourwebsitename.com ... why is nobody linking? Did you ask them?
7. Update your website
Google (and bing) likes fresh regular content, and so do visitors. Once a month is a minimum. How often have you landed on a site and the news hasn't been updated for 6 months? The answer is 'too often!'. You think straight away - 'are these guys still in business'?
8. Have a second purpose
If you are a catering company, you could put recipes online. If you are a designer, you could put 'how to' guides online. They are ways for people to find your site and also appreciate how good and knowledgable you actually are - this is great from brand / reputation / thought leadership development but won't lead instantly to more sales / inquiries. This second purpose is great for social media and other people sharing. Blog after blog about your awards and your business are, lets face it, a little boring. There. I said it.
9. Does your website need a second purpose? A question of business priorities ...
Complete opposite to the last point, but important. Sometimes a multi-thousand pound business website is made for 20 people per year. Its true. If you think about it, all the other traffic is meaningless. What you want to do is reinforce any social (real and virtual) interaction, from the moment you pass them your business card at that event through to a conversation on twitter.
When (and if) they do make the link back, and they check your site (as they most definitely will if they ever consider using you), ask yourself 'does your website match your swanky sales pitch from the previous night?'.
Back to the first point ... first impressions last. In essence, its great to blog and be social, but if your website doesn't cut the mustard when people land, then your virtual efforts could be wasted.
10. Google+ Business Page
Set one up. Link up your local business place to the business page, and spread the link around. Its not going to hurt! Ours is here
11. Monitor calls / inquiries to your business
'Oh, you don't ask ... 'tsk tsk - go and sit on the naughty step! This is a familiar scenario when talking to clients and its easy to do. Make a habit of asking 'how did you find us'. This is real gold, whether it is by recommendation, search engines or social media. Again, you can quickly get a feel for what is working for you and what isn't. This isn't the 1980s, you can u-turn an idea or develop a new digital one within hours.
12. Think public relations
Press is your friend. Online or offline, there are some great PR agencies who can help you get your story to the masses if you aren't too confident doing your own. This doesn't need to be super-expensive, sometimes targeted 'guest blogs' and mailshots to key people and sites is all that is needed. These can be done by yourself, but the process is seriously sped up by dealing with people who do this for a living.
13. Live long, prosper and monitor
This is also an important point. There's no point doing anything if you can't see if its worked or not. For your website, Google analytics and webmaster tools are essential.
For social, using services such as bit.ly and addthis can help you monitor realtime interraction / sharing. For e-marketing, most have analytics. Set some baseline parameters (we call them KPIs - Key Performance Indicators), such as 'unique visits' to your website, 'average pages per visit' ... keep monitoring and tweaking ... it will get better results ... and remember
... enjoy the challenge - see it as a new direction, a fresh start, and remember
a website is never, EVER, finished!
In summary ... you may be looking for an 'SEO fix' to your company website, whereas in fact what you need is a good old shake up of your website tech with a spring clean and update of your company branding. This is our understanding of the term Website Optimisation - which we approach as a blend of SEO, branding and clear (& creative) communication.